Notes on the cars at Long Beach

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Outwardly the technical scene in Formula One may seem to have stabilised but, in fact, this is far from true. While no totally new designs are appearing at the moment, detail changes are being made continuously, mostly in endeavours to improve the flow of air under the car and to (hopefully) make better use of it. As this under-car air-flow is improved to create more down-force on the tyres, external aids such as nose-fins and rear aerofoils are being drastically altered or even discarded. Not so long ago everyone was trying hard to prevent air getting under the cars, for indiscriminate air was causing lift and making cars almost airborne at speed. Then Lotus came along with the 78 which actively encouraged air to pass under the car, but while it was under there they directed its flow and activity to create a low-pressure area which, in effect, sucked the car down onto the road. From the success of the Lotus 78 and the even greater success of the Lotus 79 everyone followed the Lotus-route and now most design changes are aimed at cleaning up the under-side of the car, especially around the gearbox area. The once fashionable inboard rear brakes have now all been moved outboard, air flow being considered more important than un-sprung weight, and Ferrari have been at pains to reduce the overall width of their flat-12 engine to give more air space along the sides of the car. The aerodynamic side-pod filling in the space between the wheels has inadvertently removed one of the hazards of open-wheeler racing, for it is now virtually impossible for two cars to inter-lock wheels like they used to. Also the under-car air-flow designs have concentrated all the petrol into a single central fuel-cell and the side-pods effectively protect it from quite major impacts. All of which means that today’s Formula One designs are a lot safer in accidents than those of yesterday. 

Ferrari: The same three cars that were used in South Africa, 046 (Scheckter), 045 (Villeneuve) and 042 as the spare. During practice Scheckter also drove the spare. The full-width front aerofoil on the Ferrari is attached to a small fibreglass nose-cone and this is attached to the monocoque by three self-locking pins, one on top in the middle and one low down each side. These pins have a groove round them into which spring-loaded balls drop when it is pressed home. A ring on the end of the pin allows you to jerk the pin out for removal. During practice the Ferrari mechanics were seen reamering-out the top locating holes, as some of the nose-cone attachments would not accept the locating pin! the sort of thing that should have been checked in the workshop. 

Tyrrell: The Candy financed team now have three 1980 cars, 010/3 making its debut in California as the spare car for Jarier and Daly, though it was not used in the race. Jarier drove 010/1 and Daly drove 010/2. 

Brabham: For some while now Brabham have been working with the American Pete Weismann on a new gearbox/final-drive unit for the BT49 and it made its first public appearance during practice fitted to BT49/03. Weismann has been making racing transmissions for some while, but this is his first entry into Formula One, though many teams have used his self-locking differential in other gearboxes. USAC and Can-Am have been Weismann’s main sphere of activity. This new gearbox, with five or six speeds, to choice, achieves two things; it is slim to give more air space and there is nothing behind the final drive housing, which improves the polar-moment­-of-inertia of the car, and allows the suspension spring units to be mounted behind this housing, out of the air-stream. The gearbox is effectively underneath the differential unit, with the gear shafts running transversely and spur gears taking the drive up to the axle line. Input bevels turn the drive through ninety-degrees at the front of the housing and the layout allows a lower engine mounting. On the righthand side of the casing is a detachable plate and the gear cluster can be withdrawn through this opening for ease of ratio changing. The outside of the casting is smooth as all the stiffening ribs are internal. That it is a joint project is shown by the name MRD – Weismann cast into the housing, MRD being the initials of Motor Racing Developments which was the original firm created by Jack Brabham and Ron Tauranac to run the Brabham racing team, and which Ecclestone bought off Brabham when he went back to Australia. 

The rear suspension layout on BT49/03 was special to this car, with long rocker arms operating the coil-spring/damper units mounted vertically and side-by-side behind the Weismann transmission. Piquet drove this car during Friday and initial tests seemed satisfactory and everyone was pretty happy, but it was not considered race-worthy. For qualifying and the race Piquet drove a brand new car, BT49/06, while Zunino drove BT49/05 which he had used in South Africa. It is unlikely that BT49/05 will be seen again as it had the whole of the right-side ripped off when Regazzoni’s Ensign ran into it during his high-speed accident. The monocoque might be salvable. 

McLaren: Two cars to the latest specification as regards rear suspension layout and geometry, M29C/2 for Watson, M29C/4 for South, with M29B/1 as the spare. Watson used the spare car in practice as well as his own, but raced M29C/2. 

ATS: The new car that Marc Surer crashed in South Africa was scrapped and a brand new car was built to the same design. This was 04/02 and after performing well in practice it was eliminated from the race within half a lap when a drive-shaft constant-velocity universal joint broke. 

Lotus: The same three cars as in South Africa, though de Angelis took over 81/3 and 81/1 was relegated to the spare. 81/2 (Andretti) and 81/3 (de Angelis) were both fitted with new Lotus gearboxes in which there was a cavity in the forward end of the casting, into which the coil spring/damper units were inserted, one each side of the power input shaft from the engine. The oil tank is still an integral part of the gearbox casing, immediately ahead of the spring cavity. This positioning took them out of the under-car airstream and they were operated by long rocker arms. These new gearbox/final drive castings were very slim and devoid of any external lugs for inboard brakes or suspension mountings as on the old type Lotus gearbox. The internals were the usual amalgam of Hewland and ZF parts. The spare car was using one of the earlier transmission units with external springs, and its wheelbase was some three inches shorter than the other two cars. Although the team drivers raced the newer cars, albeit for a very brief moment, Andretti also used the spare car during practice. 

In the race 81/3 had its right front suspension torn out by the roots, when de Angelis crashed into a stationary car in the lap 4 multiple pile up, and that corner of the monocoque was crashed almost beyond recognition. 

Ensign: The Unipart-sponsored team had their two new cars, MN11 and MN13 and Regazzoni used both during practice, though MN11 was his designated race-car. In the race he appears to have had total brake failure which caused him to go straight on at the hairpin at the end of the bottom straight. The car was totally destroyed in the accident, which makes it difficult to diagnose what actually happened. If an hydraulic line had fractured or an hydraulic seal had failed there would have been some brakes, due to the obligatory twin-circuit system. If a leak occurs in the system for the front brakes the brake pedal balance bar would swing to full movement and you would have rear brakes; if a leak occurred in the rear system you would have front brakes. For there to be no brakes at all suggests a mechanical failure between the driver’s foot and the twin master-cylinders, or an hydraulic failure in both circuits simultaneously, which is highly unlikely.

Renault: Jabouille had his brand new 1980 car in South Africa, and now it was Arnoux’s turn. The team-leader was using RE23 and the number two driver had RE24, while RE22 was the team spare. Arnoux’s car was fitted with a power-assisted braking system for the first day of practice and this was transferred to the spare car for the second day, and not used in the race. The system is devised by Automotive Products of Leamington-Spa, of which Lockheed are an integral part. Modern Formula One brakes (and tyres) can generate as much as 2g on deceleration, but this calls for a pedal pressure of around 200 lb., which is very tiring for the driver, so AP have come up with a power-assistance which reduces the effort to around 100 lb. A small oil pump is mounted on the left of the Renault V6 engine, driven by a toothed belt from the front of the exhaust camshaft and this pump, with its own oil reservoir mounted on the side of the main oll tank, supplies the pressure for the power assistance to the main brake system through two servo valves which control the amount of power assistance supplied by the pump. The assistance does not affect the pedal travel, nor the sensitivity and feel to the driver, and Arnoux was fairly happy with the system on the first try-out, but Renault declined to use it in the race until more testing has been carried out. 

Shadow: The activities of this team are very limited and they only sent two cars to California and no spare car. DN11/02 that crashed badly at Kyalami was a write-off and its place was taken by DN11/01, the first of their 1980 cars, and was driven by Kennedy, while Lees drove DN11/03. Practice was very fraught for the team for Kennedy’s car had a rear upright break, these being fabricated from sheet steel, and then Lees went sick with a Californian cold, and neither car qualified for the race. 

Fittipaldi: The usual three cars, with Emerson Fittipaldi in F7/1, Rosberg in F7/2 and F7/3 as the spare. When Rosberg hit the wall with F7/2 the front bulkhead structure of the monocoque was distorted and would need putting back on the jig to repair, so the car was abandoned and Rosberg took over F7/3, which is the first all new car from the revitalised Fittipaldi Automotive. 

Alfa Romeo: the V12 Alfa Romeo Autodelta engines sounded very sharp and emitted a much more powerful exhaust note than ever they did in the BT48 Brabhams. There were three cars, 179/01 (Depailler), 179/02 (Giacomelli) and 179/03 as the T-car, but Depailler took over 179/03 almost immediately and used it throughout practice and for the race. The fact that the driver’s feet and the pedals are ahead of the front wheels is causing some concern in FISA technical circles, but this is of necessity due to the length of the V12 engine. 

Ligier: Only detail aerodynamic changes to these cars, which are still up-rated 1979 models, hence the JS11/15 designation. They were using very small rear aerofoils and experimenting with no front fins. Laffite raced 03, but also used 01 in practice, and Pironi raced 04. 

Williams: The same cars as in South Africa, FW07B/7 for Jones, FW07B/5 for Reutemann and FW07B/6 the spare. Thicker brake discs were being used and extra cooling ducts. Some new three-spoke Dymag front wheels were used of a stronger design than the previous four-spoke ones, this improvement being called for as improved cornering forces were tending to crack the original wheels. Reutemann used the spare car on Friday, after he crashed his own car lightly and Jones used the spare car for the race after his own car broke its engine during the morning warm-up. A new Saudi-Arabian name appeared on the cars, SIYANCO. 

Arrows: As in South Africa, with Patrese in A3/3. Mass in A3/4 and A3/1 as the spare. Trouble with his own car caused Mass to use the spare in practice. The team achieved a 100% finish, with second and seventh places, with no troubles, which is something few teams can claim. 

Osella: This small “one-man band” continue to struggle along with their single car. — D.S.J. 

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